How to Develop Outline Styles for Webinars

By Sharat Sharan, John Carucci

Although planning and scripting are a big part of the process for a successful presentation, some webinars are easier to outline than others. In addition, different formats require different degrees of preparation.

Outline styles for single-speaker webinars

Think of your speaker as the host of the show. Sometimes she introduces a guest; other times, it’s a solo effort. The host often administers the Q&A, either answering the questions or feeding questions to appropriate guest. An outline for a single-speaker event should include opening and closing remarks.

Outline styles for interview-style webinars

Turn your webinar into your own talk show with this format. The main presenter channels their inner Anderson Cooper and provides information through one-on-one interviews as opposed to a lengthy discussion. When you’re in a straight interview format, video becomes so much more important, especially when it comes to setting up each guest.

Seeing the presenter and guests helps the attendee observe body language and facial expressions in addition to talking. This goes a long way when it comes to making the attendee feel comfortable with what’s being said.

Here are some of the aspects you should consider:

  • Identify the format: Make sure your potential audience knows the format of the presentation before they register. That way, they know what to expect.

  • Interview questions: Besides scripting the opening remarks, create a list of questions to ask your guests.

  • Time management: The lack of scripting and the unpredictability of each answer make it hard to know exactly how long each interview will run. Brief each guest beforehand on the questions and ask them to keep their answers brief when possible.

  • Host remarks: In your opening remarks, be sure to identify each guest and their area of expertise. Your closing remarks should alert your audience where to find more information on the topic. Often additional resources are available for download in the webinar console itself.

Outline styles for moderated-panel webinars

Having a panel of guests for your presentation shares many similarities with the interview format, with the exception that the guests are all talking at once. That makes you more like a referee than a host. You have to ask the questions and make sure the event stays on time. In addition, you’ll have the challenge of making sure that everyone plays nice together and doesn’t talk over one another.

Instead of building a presentation, you could prepare a set of questions or topics that would be discussed to the panel. The topics are pre-conceived, so that each of the panel members gets a chance to review the content and to prepare some comments.

Sometimes you create supporting slides in advance. The storyboard — the narrative, the outline — is not a presentation. Instead, it’s based on a set of topics or questions. Those questions, typically, should appear on the screen. You have the choice of having an open-ended conversation with not much to look at, or creating some supporting slides based on each topic to create visual support for the discussion that takes place.

Outline styles for interactive webinars

Most webinars already have some level of interactivity, so it’s misleading to call interactivity a format unto itself. Some webinars obviously have more interactive elements than others, like the amount of polling, the presence of a Q&A, or the use of social media. Interactivity should be present in all presentations in one form or another.